2019 Cybils Finalists

Board Books

Dream Big
Joyce Wan
Cartwheel Books
Nominated by: Sheri Howard

Dream Big by Joyce Wan combines large-headed, toddler-friendly images of fifteen famous women with big child-relatable images of the dreams they dared to follow in an over-sized format. Using simple two or three-word phrases and bright, bold colors it explores these big-building, high-flying, fast-running, and steep-climbing dreamers. The final spread lists the women, their accomplishments, and then includes a space for the reader (“Can’t wait to see where your dreams take you.") The large format and encouragement for us all to dream makes this a book kids and parents will enjoy time and again.

Maria Marshall, The Picture Book Buzz & STEM Tuesday

Good Night, World (Global Greetings)

Flowerpot Press
Nominated by: Katy Manck

Learn to say, “Good Night” in several languages alongside a world of delightful animals in the engaging board book, Good Night, World. Pronunciation guides and an animal identification end note further add to the book’s appeal. But, it’s the vivid illustrations and charming animals that make Good Night, World more than just an exercise in extending language skill. Little ones will be asking for this one to be read over and over again.

Cheryl Vanatti, Reading Rumpus

Huggle Wuggle, Bedtime Snuggle
Della Ross Ferreri
Beaming Books
Nominated by: Nancy

The bedtime fun in this board book begins as soon as the title with engaging assonance and consonance and lovable art. From there, inviting text coaxes the child to cozy up for a bedtime read and get ready for bed. Woven into the clever rhyme text are bedtime rituals, fun and lots of love, the most important ingredient for peaceful sleep.

Lynne Marie Pisano, My Word Playground / Literally Lynne Marie

Tatsuhide Matsuoka
Gecko Press
Nominated by: Terry Doherty

Young readers will delight in watching various animals bounce, boing, and jump through these pages as they turn the book on its end to point the animals toward the sky. With stark white backgrounds, the text and creatures stand out sharply. Pure fun!

Nicole Levesque, Bluestocking Thinking

Peek-A-Bruce (Mother Bruce Series)
Ryan T. Higgins
Nominated by: Melissa Fox

The ducks are looking for Bruce the bear. Can he successfully hide from them? Bruce tries going behind a tree, hiding in the rocks, going into the bathtub, and sitting in the chair, but the little ducks find him every time. Kids can't help loving grumpy Bruce and the ever-jolly ducks.

Deb Nance, Readerbuzz

Peek-a-Who Too?
Elsa Mroziewicz
Nominated by: Miranda

Peek-a-Who Too? by Elsa Mroziewicz is the follow-up to last year's finalist, Peek-a-Who. This board book is shaped like a triangle, making it easy for little hands to hold and explore. Each page asks a question - lift the flap to discover the answer. All readers will enjoy looking at the bright, beautiful illustrations and children will enjoy guessing who is making the sounds of the various animals (and making the sounds themselves!). This is a great board book to add to your home and library collection.

Valerie Byrd Fort, Library Goddess

You Are Light
Aaron Becker
Candlewick Studio
Nominated by: Cindy Mitchell

You Are Light, by Aaron Becker, uses dye-cut circles and leaf shapes to enhance its lovely text. The die-cut circles glow with color when you hold them up to the light and the colors change with each page turn. Simple rhyming words, like: "This is light that brings the dawn to warm the sky and hug the land. It sips the sea to make the rain, which waters wheat to grow the grain" evoke discussion about how light helps us. The design of this book coupled with its lyrical text makes this the kind of book that kids will pick up over and over again.

Kirsti Call, Kirsti Call / Writer’s Rumpus

Easy Readers

Fox & Chick: The Quiet Boat Ride and Other Stories (Early Chapter for Kids, Books about Friendship, Preschool Picture Books)
Sergio Ruzzier
Chronicle Books
Nominated by: Josh Funk

This second book in the Fox & Chick series is written for preschool and up. Kids and adults will laugh and enjoy the book’s comic-book-type format and simple speech-bubble dialogue between two unlikely friends. Despite their opposite personalities, Fox and Chick always manage to have fun together, although nothing ends up as intended. Children will love each of the three new tales. The simple colored frames enhance the stories in just the right way. Readers will appreciate every single thing about this book, including even the feel of each page and the cover. This book is meant to be held and shared.

Sheri Howard, Lobit Education Village Library

Frank and Bean
Jamie Michalak
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Charlotte

With delightful odd couples like Frank and Bean, there's no reason for early readers to ever feel pedantic or dry. This book is a model of wit and heart. Readers will get to know Frank and Bean over four short chapters. The simple text manages to do a lot with a little. The dialogue is top notch, and the characters are memorable and silly in the most endearing ways. Colorful illustrations add funny details and layers of meaning. This is a book grown ups will love as much as children.

Heidi Fiedler, Writer. Editor. Idea Girl.

Hello, Crabby!: An Acorn Book (A Crabby Book #1)
Jonathan Fenske
Nominated by: Becky L.

There's an early reader for every child, and this one is for anyone who loves a good crankypus. Crabby is (ahem) very crabby. He doesn't like sand in his shell. And he takes a hard pass on salt in his teeth. Oh and he would really rather not with the sun in his eyes. But that's life for a crab. Readers will giggle at his silly speech bubbles and read on to see if he will always be so very crabby. This simple graphic-novel format is a great fit for new readers who are building literacy skills.

Heidi Fiedler, Writer. Editor. Idea Girl.

Yasmin the Superhero
Saadia Faruqi
Picture Window Books
Nominated by: Aneesa Mumtaz

Yasmin is a curious kid who is always seeking out some sort of adventure. In Yasmin the Superhero, she decides to become Super Yasmin and defeat evil villains just like the superheroes she reads about in books. However, she can’t seem to find any evil villains in her neighborhood. Along the way, she helps her neighbors whenever she can, not realizing how much of a hero she already is. Yasmin is a relatable character and her adventures are full of energy and optimism. Her caring family’s Pakistani culture is woven into the story, and readers can find more information in the back matter. The whole series is great, and Yasmin the Superhero is a standout choice.

Mindy Rhiger, Proper Noun Blog

Early Chapter Books

A Is for Elizabeth
Rachel Vail
Feiwel & Friends
Nominated by: Sondra Eklund

Elizabeth’s teacher has assigned her second grade students the task of creating a name poster, which will then be displayed in alphabetical order. Nasty Anna will get to go first again! Elizabeth, determined to go first for once, spells her name a whole new way to get around the unfairness that is alphabetical order. This laugh-out-loud story written by Rachel Vail will have children agreeing, giggling, and most importantly, reading. Vail’s just-right language for the early-chapter-book reader paired with the hilarious story to which all kids (except those named Anna) can easily relate will have readers happily turning pages through all fifty chapters. Simple sketches by Paige Keiser aid the imagination plus leave space for sometimes less than three sentences. Kids will not be intimidated by long rows of dialogue or pages upon pages of unbroken text. This is the perfect starter for those ready to take on chapter books.

Sheri Howard, Lobit Education Village Library

Frankie Sparks and the Class Pet (1) (Frankie Sparks, Third-Grade Inventor)
Megan Frazer Blakemore
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: Melissa Fox

When the teacher announces the class gets to vote on a pet, aspiring scientist Frankie Sparks just knows that a pet rat (intelligent and perfect for research!) is her class's destiny. All she needs to do is convince the rest of the third grade to think the same way...

This promising first book in a series written by Megan Frazer Blakemore will have children learning about animals, design thinking, and emotional intelligence while turning the pages to meet the new pet. Nadja Sarell's scientific-style illustrations showing a diverse cast of children are visually appealing and just plentiful enough to make the leap to more complex chapter books accessible to readers.

Kelly Clarke, Kidlit Underground

Mangoes, Mischief, and Tales of Friendship: Stories from India
by Chitra Soundar and illustrated by Uma Krishnaswamy
Candlewick Press
Publisher/ Author Submission

In Mangoes, Mischief, and Tales of Friendship Stories from India, Prince Veera has been given the opportunity to stand in his father King Bheema’s stead to help judge and settle disputes of his countryman. He and his best friend, Suku, are faced with cases involving greed, unfairness, prejudice, superstition and more in these individual tales. Prince Veera is fair, kind, and extremely clever with each situation arriving at the best possible solution at the end of each. A baker proposes that people should be charged for simply enjoying the smell of his sweets while another man wants the woman next door to stop her beautiful singing because it distracts him from his work. The eight stories are folkloric in style with an ancient mood, but Chitra Soundar has created modern originals. Early readers will enjoy the format of the book, the cleverness of the boys, and the foolishness of the subjects. Reflective yet refreshing.

Sheri Howard, Lobit Education Village Library

Mr. Penguin and the Lost Treasure
Alex T. Smith
Nominated by: Charlotte

Mr. Penguin has decided to be a professional adventurer. His first official adventuring job is to find a hidden treasure in the Museum of Extraordinary Objects. Mr. Penguin and his sidekick Colin the spider are on the case! However, it turns out the adventuring business is much more dangerous and tiring than Mr. Penguin thought. The two of them must face alligators, waterfalls, and jewel thieves all in search of the treasure. Chapter-book readers will be drawn into the quirky adventure from the very beginning, and it will keep them laughing along the way.

Mindy Rhiger, Proper Noun Blog

Rabbit & Bear: Rabbit's Bad Habits
Julian Gough
Silver Dolphin Books
Nominated by: Dr. Cheryl S. Vanatti

This early chapter book is laugh-out-loud funny and fun for newly independent readers and their parents too. Bear wakes up early because her food has been robbed! She makes the best of waking up in winter by working on a snowman. Rabbit comes along and is quite curious, but doesn't want to help; Rabbit wants to make a snowman of his own. But before that happens, we see Rabbit eat some food. BEAR'S FOOD! Rabbit is the robber!

Then Rabbit does something truly awesome. He eats his own poo. Polite Bear asks about why, and there's a great explanation. It doesn't look like these two will be friends, until a wolf comes along and Rabbit things twice about how he's interacted with Bear.

I LOVE that Bear is a girl and Rabbit is a boy; typically the bigger/stronger animals are male in kids books, while the smaller/meeker ones are female, so it was nice to see this flipped on its head. There are laugh out loud lines in this book, and lots of drama and conflict. Rabbit is a rather rotten character for most of the book, which I think is great; it shows how characters can change and is a reminder that not everything always ends in happily ever after. The illustrations are dynamic and feature excellent facial expressions. A great start to a series that I know kids will love.

Kathy Ellen Davis, Wheelie Good Books

Elementary/Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction

Greg van Eekhout
Nominated by: Violet

Cog uses the voice of a robot with artificial intelligence, who looks like a 12 year old African American boy, to raise questions about what makes us human. Learning from making mistakes? Our connections with others? After Cog saves a dog from being run over, he lands in the hands of a roboticist who believes robots are tools, and the financial bottom line is the most important thing. When Cog realizes the danger he’s in, he knows he must escape and find his beloved programmer again. Readers will love the rollercoaster ride adventure Cog takes to try to make sure he’s learning all the lessons he’s meant to learn.

Debbie Tanner, The Booksearch

Homerooms and Hall Passes
Tom O'Donnell
Balzer + Bray
Nominated by: Ms. Yingling

Homework and Hallpasses is a classic “fish out of water” story about a group of kids who get trapped in a game they’re playing. There’s a twist- the group of kids are from a medieval realm and include a wizard, an assassin, a paladin, a Barbarian, and thief. The game they are trapped in is called Homework and Hallpasses, a role playing game set in a modern day middle school. The laugh out loud dialogue and situations that develope as the dangers of middle school are coupled with a demonic curse, will keep all readers turning the pages to the final, hilarious solution.

Debbie Tanner, The Booksearch

Love Sugar Magic: A Sprinkle of Spirits
Anna Meriano
Walden Pond Press
Nominated by: Eric K.

Leo’s family runs a magical bakery in a small Texas town, and she longs to learn all she can about magic, even though her family doesn’t trust her with it. When she wakes up to find her abuela, dead for years, visiting her in very corporal form, she's sure that this time it isn't her fault. Other spirits pop up around town, and if it isn't Leo's magic at work, whose is it? Leo calls on her friends to help, and a wild ghost chase ensues. Honoring and balancing obligations to family, friends, and the community is just as important to the story as the magical shenanigans are, and these threads combined make an unforgettably fun, warm, story full of Mexican and Costa Rican culture.

Charlotte Taylor, Charlotte's Library

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (A Sal and Gabi Novel, Book 1)
Carlos Hernandez
Disney Hyperion--Rick Riordan presents
Nominated by: boricuareads

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe is a quirky sci-fi friendship story brimming with humor and heart. Sal Vidón is not your typical diabetic Cuban-American middle school magician. He can tear holes in the fabric of the multiverse and bring things—and even people—from parallel universes into his own. It’s a useful skill, but it can lead to complications. Luckily, he finds a fierce ally in student council president, Gabi Reál. This book tackles serious issues with such a light touch that readers will never want to leave Sal and Gabi’s universe.

Beth Mitchell, Imaginary Friends

The Dark Lord Clementine
Sarah Jean Horwitz
Algonquin Young Readers
Nominated by: Brenda

Clementine has been raised to follow in her father’s footsteps as a Dark Lord. When he’s cursed, it falls to her to look after their castle and its magical creatures, while desperately searching for a cure. It doesn’t go well. But as Clementine grows in confidence, with two friends on her side for the first time in her life, she subverts the old notions “Dark Lord” and makes the role her own. It’s delightful to watch her come into her own. The humor of her world and the fun twists on standard fantasy are delightful as well, with themes of community, friendship, and forgiveness adding emotional weight.

Charlotte Taylor, Charlotte's Library

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky
Kwame Mbalia
Disney Hyperion--Rick Riordan presents
Nominated by: Reshama

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky is an epic adventure that melds African and African American folklore in a riveting fantasy about the power of stories. Tristan, an African American seventh grader, has lost his best friend and is spending the summer down South with his grandparents. There he is transported to a land of lore that is both familiar and strange. Tristan processes grief and guilt while confronting an allegory of his ancestral past in this otherworldly adventure. Told in rich cinematic detail with beautiful attention to dialogue, Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky demands space on the bookshelf.

Jennifer Miller, Raise Them Righteous

We're Not from Here
Geoff Rodkey
Crown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: proseandkahn

We’re Not From Here puts all of us in the place of refugees and new kids when Lan and their family must represent all of humanity on an alien planet. The inhabitants of the planet Choom changed their minds about taking refugees while the human ship was on its way there – and now if Lan’s family can’t convince them that humans are civilized, all the humans on their ship will die in space. Even though the situation is dire and the government of Choom has set them up to fail, the humor in this book keeps the reader laughing along with Lan, learning how to understand truly alien perspectives.

Sondra Eklund, Sonderbooks

Fiction Picture Books

A Stone Sat Still: (Environmental and Nature Picture Book for Kids, Perspective Book for Preschool and Kindergarten, Award Winning Illustrator)
, illustrated by Wenzel, Brendan
Chronicle Books
Nominated by: Heidi G.

In A Stone Sat Still by Brenden Wenzel, the soft lyrical text examines a wide array of different animal's perspectives (it was a home, a whole world, and “a throne”) and their varied perceptions (it’s "a wave" and "a memory") as they each interact with a stone. It deftly combines the concepts of size (a mountain to a bug and a pebble to a Moose), color (darkly shadowed to a chipmunk or glowing moonlit to an owl), seasons, textures, and environmental changes. The gorgeous illustrations of cut paper, pencil, collage, and paint create windows into micro-ecosystems; showing how a simple rock can be a minor aspect of life or an animal's entire world. Leaving the reader with a subtle message of being at peace with who you are.

Maria Marshall, The Picture Book Buzz & STEM Tuesday

Hair Love
Matthew A. Cherry
Nominated by: Melissa Fox

Zuri has hair that kinks, coils, and curls every which way. She loves her hair and how it can make her feel - from a princess to a superhero. She wakes up on one special day determined to have the perfect hairstyle. Her dad offers to help and in typical dad fashion, creates styles that are not so perfect. After watching a how-to video, the perfect hairstyle is finally achieved. Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry; illustrated by Vashti Harrison celebrates family, the relationship between a dad and his daughter, and of course - hair!

Valerie Byrd Fort, Library Goddess

Moon's First Friends: One Giant Leap for Friendship
Susanna Leonard Hill
Sourcebooks Wonderland
Nominated by: Darshana Khiani

This appealing, fictionalized portrayal of an anthropomorphized moon considers a moon’s perspective as it witnesses fascinating creatures like dinosaurs and other animals that came and went on the earth including mammoths and dodos, people like the cavemen and happenings like the building of the pyramids. The phases of the moon are cleverly woven in, either to enjoy as art or identify scientifically with the help of an adult. Other discoveries and inventions are followed beneath the moon’s watchful eye until ultimately, the technology is discovered to build a rocket ship that has moon hopeful to finally connect with a friend. This book touches upon so many wonders and ultimately offers a satisfying resolution and inspiration for the ready, as well as “out-of-this-world” facts and back matter!

Lynne Marie Pisano, My Word Playground / Literally Lynne Marie

Once Upon a Goat
Dan Richards
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Ms. Yingling

Traditional fairy tale conceptions get a reworking when the king and queen long for a ‘kid’ and are delivered a goat by their fairy godmother in the made for reading aloud tale, Once Upon a Goat. At first, the king and queen are bewildered, but by the time the fairy godmother offers to right the misunderstanding, the ‘kid,’ has become family to the king and queen. Without a hint of didactic tone, Once Upon a Goat succeeds at what the best children’s literature does: teaches a lesson without preaching a lesson. Acceptance, the definition of family, and loving the life we are given even when it’s not what we thought we wanted are all there - quietly making us think while we are busy laughing.

Cheryl Vanatti, Reading Rumpus

One Fox: A Counting Book Thriller
Kate Read
Publisher/ Author Submission

One Fox; A Counting Book Thriller by Kate Read is as unexpected as it is delightful. Sparse text and expressive illustrations pack each page with suspense. One famished fox and a coop full of chickens leads to an inevitable ending. Or does it? I love this fresh approach to counting, with gorgeous illustrations and a twist ending. Oh, and hens really ARE unflappable.

Kirsti Call, Kirsti Call / Writer’s Rumpus

Ruby's Hope: A Story of How the Famous "Migrant Mother" Photograph Became the Face of the Great Depression
Monica Kulling
Page Street Kids
Nominated by: PH Dowding

Author Monica Kulling wrote a beautiful Depression-era story inspired by the famous Migrant Mother photograph taken by Dorothea Lange. Young readers will follow Ruby's family as they make the hard decision to leave their failing farm to begin a journey west. This important piece of American history is told through the eyes of Ruby, helping young readers begin to understand what this difficult time must have been like to live through. As the story wraps up artist Sarah Dvojack illustrates the famous moment when Dorothea Lange approaches Ruby's mother and takes her famous Migrant Mother photograph. Following the story is an author's note that explains what is true and what is fictionalized in the story. There are also additional photos of the family, which readers will realize were depicted in various scenes in the book.

Nicole Levesque, Bluestocking Thinking

The Undefeated
Kwame Alexander
Nominated by: proseandkahn

Words by Kwame Alexander and pictures by Kadir Nelson combine to form a perfect tribute to the courageous struggles of black Americans, through time, for justice, for equality, for a good life. Children and adults alike will find themselves deeply moved after reading this powerful story of strength and persistence and endurance in the face of decades of torment and hatred and violence. This is a book that will be read and reread and shared again and again.

Deb Nance, Readerbuzz

Graphic Novels

Elementary/Middle Grade

Crush (Berrybrook Middle School)
Svetlana Chmakova
Yen Press
Nominated by: Wendy

What is it like to have a crush for the first time? Crush explores exactly that emotion - following big, baseball playing Jorge, a quiet but courageous character who stands up to bullies and helps others when needed. Although part of a series, Crush stands on its own, pulling you into Jorge's story of realizing why he can't seem to speak around a certain girl suddenly. Beyond just those emotions, this graphic novel delves into middle school bullying - on and offline, bodily autonomy and agency, and overall just crushes the myth that nice guys finish last.

Kristen Harvey, The Book Monsters

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Graphic Novel: A Modern Retelling of Little Women
Rey Terciero
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Jennifer_Miller_RaiseThemRighteous

A fun twist of a retelling on a classic novel. This graphic novel follows Four sisters in a blended family over the course of a year while they experience love, hardships, tough friendships, and their father being deployed. Each girl struggles in her own way but leans on her family for support. Fans of the original and unfamiliar fans as well as graphic novel readers and unlikely readers will enjoy this book!

Stephanie Galvan Russell, The Lispy Librarian Vlog Blog

New Kid
Jerry Craft
HarperCollins Childrens
Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

Rich with humor and emotion, New Kid explores both middle school life as well as the racist microaggressions that are prevalent in our society. When protagonist Jordan Banks finds himself at a new private school, he comes to realize that he is one of the few people of color there. Not only does he have to navigate the typical middle school challenges of making friends, dealing with crushes, and completing homework on time, but he also has to deal with the preconceived notions -- both his own and others' -- about race. Craft expertly deals with this topic while also creating realistic and heart-warming characters.

Erin Warzala, Crooks in Books

Kyo Maclear
Groundwood Books
Nominated by: Kristen

For a music class assignment, middle-schooler Charlie has been tasked with identifying her perfect song. Unsure what to choose but moved by the opera music her teacher plays for the class, she begins to research Maria Callas. Opera may seem an unlikely choice for a middle-schooler’s perfect song, but Charlie find surprising insights into the confusing dynamics of friendships, crushes, and bullies through Callas’s life and art in this quietly powerful graphic novel.

Elisabeth Ellington, The Dirigible Plum

The Hidden Witch
Molly Knox Ostertag
Nominated by: Cheriee Weichel

Through her writing and vibrant artwork, Ostertag has created a sequel that is every bit as moving and hopeful as 2017’s The Witch Boy. When a new girl, Ariel, starts at Charlie’s school, a mysterious dark power starts attacking people, and Charlie and Aster suspect Ariel is the source. This series often explores the idea that people who lash out at others may be suffering themselves and instead of turning against her, Charlie and Aster work together to reach out to Ariel and help her turn things around. Even though this comic tackles some serious themes, it does so skillfully and is an absolute delight to read.

Christa Seeley, Women Write About Comics

The Tea Dragon Festival (The Tea Dragon Society)
Katie O'Neill
Oni Press
Nominated by: Shannon

While gathering herbs in the forest, villager Rinn discovers Aedhan, a dragon who has been in an enchanted sleep for nearly a century. With the help of Rinn’s uncle Erik and his partner Hesekiel, they set off to discover the source of the enchantment. O’Neill includes characters of multiple genders and races as well as disabled characters; she makes a point at the beginning to explain the use of ESL in the course of the story. From the Eisner and Harvey Award-winning author of Princess Princess Ever After and Aquicorn Cove, this all-ages companion story set in the world of The Tea Dragon Society is magical and heartwarming.

Maggi Rohde, Books for Squids

Tiger vs. Nightmare
Emily Tetri
First Second Books
Nominated by: Kara

Find the unlikeliest of friendships and an unbeatable nightmare-fighting team in this empowering graphic novel about wrestling with growing pains and anxieties. Tetri's dynamic and colorful imagery is full of emotional expressions of bravery, fear, joy, and determination, and there's an inherent movement to the watercolor media that carries readers curiously but safely through Tiger's story. Tiger vs. Nightmare is the perfect choice for children aging out of picture books or looking to explore their anxieties more deeply through the comfortable lens of someone else's life.

Mel Schuit, Let's Talk Picture Books

Young Adult

Grimoire Noir
Vera Greentea
First Second Books
Nominated by: Kristen

Spooky and ethereal, Grimoire Noir creates a mystery within a unique paranormal world in which all the females are witches. When Bucky Orson's younger sister goes missing, he has to search the whole town to find her. In the process, he discovers a forgotten and sinister history. Bogatch complements Greentea's unique world building with moody illustrations that are sure to capture the imaginations of readers everywhere.

Erin Warzala, Crooks in Books

Kiss Number 8
Colleen AF Venable
First Second Books
Nominated by: Wendy

This coming-of-age graphic novel is equal parts witty, heartbreaking, devastating, and celebratory. Venable deftly produces a safe world for Mads to wholly explore her sexuality and gain a deeper understand of love and its many forms. Equally important, Crenshaw's illustrations radiate warmth, curiosity, and safety by visually welcoming readers into Mads' most private moments of self-love, self-loathing, and self-actualization. This book is a triumphant combination of nostalgia for older adults and accessibility for younger adults.

Mel Schuit, Let's Talk Picture Books

Suzanne Walker
Lion Forge
Nominated by: boricuareads

Enchanting and adorable, Mooncakes whisks the reader into a story of rekindled romance between a witch and a werewolf with a touch of danger. The layers of each character add much to the story, our lesbian witch having hearing aids and using them in her magic. The werewolf character is non-binary and learning her wolf magic, and the grandmother characters are just so beautiful, loving and accepting of everything that happens in the story. Mooncakes brings to life a story that is full of acceptance and magic all in one.

Kristen Harvey, The Book Monsters

Surviving the City (Volume 1)
Tasha Spillett
Highwater Press
Nominated by: Jenna @ Falling Letters

Haunting and timely, Surviving the City raises awareness of the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit People through the characters of Miikwan and Dez, best friends whose after-school plans to work on a class Heritage Project are derailed when Dez goes missing. Spillett’s spare writing and Donovan’s evocative art bring the girls and their families and communities to life in this story about strength, resistance, and hope.

Elisabeth Ellington, The Dirigible Plum

They Called Us Enemy
George Takei
Top Shelf Productions
Nominated by: Darshana Khiani

This graphic novel is easily one of the most important that I have read this year. It vividly displays the hardships of Japanese-Americans during World War II while they were forced into concentration camps. The book is a graphic memoir and follows George Takei's family as they lived in one of the camps.

Stephanie Galvan Russell, The Lispy Librarian Vlog Blog

This Place: 150 Years Retold
Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm
Highwater Press
Nominated by: Aaron

In this anthology, the historical experiences of Canada’s Indigenous people are made personal and real. Twenty-one authors and illustrators, many of Métis, Inuit, and other Indigenous descent, tell ten stories beginning with Canada’s confederation in 1867 and extending into the future. All stories are thoroughly footnoted, each prefaced with a timeline, and include many direct quotes from the historical players. With vivid detail and color, this brings the importance of Indigenous people in the story of Canada front and center.

Maggi Rohde, Books for Squids

Middle-Grade Fiction

Maybe He Just Likes You
Barbara Dee
Nominated by: Joanna Marple

Starting middle school can be tough and scary for anyone. For Mila especially so, things are tough at home so school should be her safe place. That is not the case. It starts with an unwanted hug by a classmate and continues and escalates. She feels like she has no one to turn to. Her friend Max understands what's happening to Mila. He urges her to find a trusted adult to help deal with the situation. This book handles sexual harassment in schools and bullying in a realistic manner. Maybe He Just Likes You has a lot going on and handles the topics in a relatable manner for readers.

Shannon Griffin, Picture Books to YA

Operation Frog Effect
Sarah Scheerger
Random House Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

When an injured frog appears on the first day in a 5th grade classroom, the class votes to keep the frog and name him Kermit. The class learns many lessons about frogs and science, but more importantly, they learn about themselves and making a difference. Later, that lesson is tested, and the students come together and work as a team to speak to the school board.

Pamela Thompson, Young Adult Books - What We're Reading Now

Right as Rain
Lindsey Stoddard
Nominated by: Jean Reidy

Rain’s brother died almost a year ago and no one knows that Rain is holding onto a secret - her brother’s death was her fault. Her mother decides that they need a fresh start, moving the family from Vermont to New York City, where Rain has to adjust to her new home, as well as cope with her brother’s death, while trying to keep her parents together. But her continue to fight, and her father, still very depressed, just stays in bedroom for most of the day. Rain escapes through running and eventually joins a relay team at her school. Her new friend and teammate, Frankie, introduces her to Ms. Dacie and her home quickly becomes a second home to Rain. Ms. Dacie needs some help to keep her home open to students as an after-school program and Rain rises to help the cause, while helping her family cope with their grief

Brenda Beikert, Goodreads

Roll with It
Jamie Sumner
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Rosemary Kiladitis

Ellie might have Cerebral Palsy that will keep her in a wheelchair for life, however she refuses to feel sorry for herself. Concerned about her grandfather's encroaching Alzheimer's and budding family financial problems, Ellie has a secret coping skill--baking. If she can win the upcoming prize money in the area baking contest, she can help out her family situation, but not without the help of her friends, Robert, a bullied autistic young man and Coralee who, like Ellie has big dreams. Accomplishing these goals is difficult but not impossible for Ellie who finds she can accomplish anything she sets her mind to.

Rae Longest, Rae Reads - Power Women Readers

Song for a Whale
Lynne Kelly
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Katie B

Twelve-year-old Iris has never felt understood. At school and even at home, being deaf has made it hard to communicate. Her classmates and teachers either try too hard, flapping their arms at her pretending to know sign language, or like her dad, don’t try to learn at all. When Iris learns about a whale who sings at a different frequency and therefore cannot be understood by other whales, she is determined to use what she knows about sound frequencies from fixing up old radios to write a song for the whale. Once it is written, she is even more determined to play the song for the whale herself - even if it means traveling to Alaska.

Stacy Mozer, It's All About the Journey

The Bridge Home
Padma Venkatraman
Nancy Paulsen Books
Nominated by: Aaron

After fleeing their abusive father, Viji and her younger sister Rukku find themselves living on the streets of Chennai, India, where life is harsh and dangerous. They find shelter under a bridge, where they makes friends with two homeless boys, Muthi and Arul, who show them the ropes of street life survival. Loving her independence away from untrustworthy parents, Viji joins Muthi and Arul rummaging through the Chennai’s garbage heaps to earn some money. But when the rainy season arrives with its mosquitos, and Rukku becomes ill, Viji must decide whether or not to ask for help, and risk losing their freedom.

Alex Baugh, Randomly Reading

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise
Dan Gemeinhart
Henry Holt
Nominated by: Jonemac

Ever since the death of her mother and two sisters Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, have been on the move. But when Coyote finds out that a park in their old town is being torn down and with it a hidden box of memories she knows she has to get back there. But how can she travel over 3,000 miles without Rodeo knowing what she is doing? Filled with adventure, friendship, and heart this is a book not to be missed.

Julie Williams, Reading by the Pond


Dreams from Many Rivers: A Hispanic History of the United States Told in Poems
Margarita Engle
Henry Holt
Nominated by: Katy Manck

Backed by research, good storytelling and poetic craft, these short snippets of history from 1491 until now with multiple Latinx narrators weave a powerful chronicle, poem by poem.

Anastasia Suen, #kidlit Book of the Day

Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience
, Vecchione, Patrice (Editor), Raymond, Alyssa (Editor)
Triangle Square
Nominated by: Michelle H Barnes

Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience edited by Patrice Vecchione and Alyssa Raymond is a poetry anthology for older readers that celebrates the lives and experiences of immigrants, refugees, exiles, and their families, who have made this land a home for generations. With poets like Elizabeth Acevedo, Tarfia Faizullah, Hala Alyan, Gala Mukomolova, Bao Phi, and Ocean Vuong, from countries such as Iran, Russia, Mexico, Vietnam, Sudan, Haiti, Syria and beyond, Ink Knows No Borders creates a sense of the immigrant and refugee experience that… honors its complexity and variety.” It gives voice to the experiences of young adult first and second-generation immigrants and refugees as well as providing a historical perspective in poems by Ellen Bass, Eavan Boland, Jeff Coomer, Li-Young Lee, and others. Although each poem channels an individual experience, the collection also offers universal themes on the power of family love, the shock of war, and the isolation of relocation. The poems take us from trauma to hope and as Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera reminds us, “let me tell you what a poem brings . . . it is a way to attain a life without boundaries.”

Sylvia Vardell, PoetryforChildren

Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir
Nikki Grimes
Nominated by: Sylvia Vardell

Nikki Grimes’ poetry sings with emotion, imagery, and phrasing in this gripping memoir of her recollections of young life. In her author’s note, Grimes delves into the challenge of writing a memoir, and the difficulty of bridging gaps that trauma has taken. At the same time any reader of Ordinary Hazards will tell you that Grimes has done just that, bridging gaps by including snippets from notebooks through the years and piecing together a life that was left in pieces by traumatic experiences at each of life’s turns. As Grimes notes in her prologue: “It’s a long story, but I’m a poet. I can cut it short.” Ordinary Hazards is a simply stunning memoir in verse that will lead readers to understanding and empathy while being dazzled by the words that make a life.

Ellen Zschunke, On the Shelf 4 Kids

Other Words for Home
Jasmine Warga
Balzer + Bray
Nominated by: Adrienne Gillespie

What does it mean to flee your home, leaving half of your family behind? What does it mean to have a foot in two cultures, to live between two worlds? What does it mean to be Muslim and Arab in the United States in a world after 9-11? Jasmine Warga’s free verse novel explores these questions and so much more in her verse novel Other Words for Home. Jude and her pregnant mother flee Syria, leaving her father and brother behind, to live with relatives in Cincinnati. It’s a huge change for a young girl who is trying to make sense of her new world while dealing with homesickness, fear, inequality, prejudice, and middle school. Warga’s poems sing with emotion, sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, but ultimately hopeful. The verse novel also includes an author’s note and glossary of Arabic terms. Written originally as prose, Other Words for Home shines as a novel in verse.

Tricia Stohr-Hunt, The Miss Rumphius Effect

Laurie Halse Anderson
Viking Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

Anderson’s powerful and captivating verse novel brims with emotion, tension, and personal reflection on her own life as well as our society and culture. Upper-YA readers will be moved by the experiences she recounts through solidly-written poems that are strong enough to stand on their own, but are even more profoundly moving when gathered together here to tell her story.

Matt Esenwine, Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

Soccerverse: Poems about Soccer
Elizabeth Steinglass
Nominated by: jhdiehl

Short, snappy poems on a kid-friendly topic are told from a child’s point of view in a variety of fun poetic forms that young readers can try themselves. The subthemes of friendship and kindness in this poetry collection apply to this popular sport played all around the globe and to everyday life.

Anastasia Suen, #kidlit Book of the Day

The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems
Paul B. Janeczko
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Melissa Fox

Paul B. Janeczko’s final collection of poems leaves a legacy we can all adore. The poems in The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog are all How to poems but are as unique as each title suggests. From How to Build a Poem by Father Goose, Charles Ghigna, to How to Pay Attention from April Halprin Wayland, these poems inspire children to try new things, imagine new things, and experience new things. Poetry is the right word in the right place at the right time, and these poems glitter with just-right words, as in Elaine Magliaro’s How to Be a Snowflake: “Fashion yourself/ a bit of lace,/ crystalline,/ spun in space…” Common life experiences such as roasting marshmallows (“It hinges on a second, an inch…”) as well as humorous antics (“Do not jump on ancient uncles or talk to bearded bears.”),and adventures such as “Walking on Mars” by Irene Latham will make you open this book time and time again.

Margaret Simon , Reflections on the Teche

Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction

Elementary Nonfiction

Monument Maker: Daniel Chester French and the Lincoln Memorial
Linda Booth Sweeney
Tilbury House
Nominated by: Dr. Cheryl S. Vanatti

Even as a young boy, Daniel Chester French liked to make stuff- drawings of the birds in the New Hampshire farm he grew up in, a lion made of snow that frightened his neighbors, and clay creations that impressed everyone around him. This creative spirit, he would carry with him through to adulthood even if it meant straying from the path his family had carved for him.

As the sixteenth president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln fought to bring together a divided country only to be assassinated for his ideals.

Readers will be drawn in by how these two stories intersect as they follow Dan Chester French’s career from the creation of one stunning statue after another to his ultimate masterpiece- the Lincoln Memorial-, a true monument honoring not only a great leader but the ideals that make our country great.

History truly comes to life with Linda Booth Sweeney’s engaging text and Shawn Field’s incredible illustrations. Extensive back-matter material including author’s and illustrator’s notes, a timeline biography of Daniel Chester French’s life, and a list of the statues he created will provide more enjoyment to those who want to dig even deeper on the subject.

Earl Dizon, The Chronicles Of A Children's Book Writer – Earl Dizon

Isabel Thomas
Bloomsbury Children's Books
Nominated by: Karla Manternach

This outstanding picture book presents natural selection--an element of evolution--as a narrative in which the gorgeous pictures are just as illuminating as the rhythmic, partly-rhymed words. The peppered moth survives predation through camouflage--but the colors of hiding change depending on how pollution stains the moths’ hiding places. The author and illustrator take the reader through a century of soot-stained nature to a present where “people decided to clean up the air … Year by year by year cities grew greener. The air all around became cleaner.” It’s a profoundly hopeful ending!

Sarah Prineas, Prairie Lights Kids

Nine Months: Before a Baby Is Born
Miranda Paul
Neal Porter Books
Nominated by: Adrienne Gillespie

NINE MONTHS: BEFORE A BABY IS BORN follows a young child as she and her parents await the birth of a new baby. Miranda Paul's quintrains are playful and bouncy.

The point of a pin.
Then it divides…

Our story begins.

Jason Chin’s illustrations provide children with detailed and accurate information about pregnancy. Each two-page spread is divided in half. The left hand side shows the development of the fetus, most in actual size. The right hand side shows the family- a dad, a mom, and the big sister who is probably three or four, as they engage in a variety of “waiting for baby” activities- reading about babies, examining baby clothes, attending an ultrasound appointment, gardening, and building a crib. As the baby grows, it takes up more and more of the two-page spread.

End matter includes "More About Babies," a detailed description of a baby's development over nine months, "Whoa Baby!" (nine amazing things a baby can do before it is born), “Humans vs. Animals (gestation length for animals ranging from mice to lions to elephants) and then “What If- What if there are two, or more than two embryos? What if a baby is born early, What if Something Goes Wrong?”

Perfect for a brother or sister who is waiting for a new sibling!

Carol Wilcox, Carol W's Corner

Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival
Lindsay Moore
Greenwillow Books
Nominated by: Heidi G.

In Lindsay Moore’s stunning picture book, Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival, a solitary polar bear travels across the Arctic ice in search of food. When the ice melts, she must swim for days. On reaching land after her exhausting journey, she gives birth to cubs, and when the sea freezes again, she begins her journey anew.
The poetic prose and sparse images of the book give the young reader an intimate view of the lone bear’s heroic journey while reinforcing the themes of the natural world: adaptation, patience, and perseverance. Backmatter includes information on polar bears and sea ice, and how climate change is affecting both.

Carrie Butler Becker, Other Women's Stories

Seashells: More Than a Home
Melissa Stewart
Nominated by: Joannie

In both visuals and text, the depth of science research in this picture book is evident, including end-papers, scientific labeling, simulated field notes, back matter sources, and prompts no further reading. The tone of this book makes it a delight for read aloud for even the youngest. The flowing main narrative provides familiar comparisons of various shell adaptations to increase survival, and Stewart's figurative language provides a pattern for early language development.
Illustrations are presented in a horizontal, watery display that soothes and refreshes.The parallel paragraphs of accessible but more detailed content and the accurate but soft-edged specimens are set in natural habitats that explain and expand the meaning of the lyrical lines that float across the top of each page.

"Seashells can wear disguises like a spy...
or hide in plain sight like a soldier in camo clothing.
Seashells can open like your mouth...
and close quickly like your eyelids."

A wordless visual narrative allows a diverse and curious group of friends to propel the content through illustrations, spanning a day of noticing, examining, and discussing among themselves what they have found and learned at the beach.
This and its related titles provide both text and illustrations that work well with older readers, too. The similes offer a rich resource as mentor-text for young writers, moving them from simply lifting content and rephrasing it to analyzing, comparing, and expressing science content effectively.

Sandy Brehl, http://unpackingpicturebookpower.blogspot.com

Sonny's Bridge: Jazz Legend Sonny Rollins Finds His Groove
Barry Wittenstein
Nominated by: Alex Baugh

Sonny's bridge is a tribute to the prolific jazz musician Sonny Rollins. Sonny was born in the vibrant times of jazz music. As a kid, Sonny played the saxophone and very quickly mastered the instrument. By 29 years, Sonny had rocketed to the top of jazz world. And then, he stepped back.
Barry Wittenstein's tribute in this picture book, takes you through the story of this extraordinary jazz artist who at the height of his career, suddenly stopped and took a sabbatical to discover his true voice. But Sonny didn't stop playing. Two years out of the limelight, Sonny took to Williamsburg bridge to practice and play his sax to find his music again.
Written in verse but prose that flows like music, in combination with digital medium art with deep colors to represent the artists emotional journey, Sonny's bridge is a beautiful tribute in a picture book.

Reshama Deshmukh, Stacking Books

Titan and the Wild Boars: The True Cave Rescue of the Thai Soccer Team
Susan Hood
Nominated by: Maria Gianferrari

Titan and the Wild Boars is truly a kids' story - a true and contemporary story about a daring cave rescue of a boys’ soccer team. The story takes place in Thailand, a country and culture unfamiliar to many young readers, but the story’s events reflect interests, emotions and concerns that all kids would relate to -- sports (especially soccer), caves, high danger, rescue, working together as a team when it really counts, not giving up, and seeking help when help is needed. In this cave rescue, adult help was definitely needed if anyone was going to survive. The adults who volunteered to help understood that they too were risking their lives if they attempted to reach and rescue the boys – some could not swim. Scuba and underwater rescue skills were essential for navigating through a flooded cave, a cave that was a maze of tunnels and dead ends. One adult-rescuer didn’t make it out. As part of the rescue efforts, the soccer players as a team had to decide "who would go first – and then next” to try to exit the cave swimming underwater in complete darkness - knowing that those remaining behind might die.

This is a story full of adventure, suspense and danger, but even more, it is a true story that tells the amazing tale of teamwork, cooperation, persistence, and caring for each other with unselfish courage. We need these stories.

Nancy Bo Flood, The Pirate Tree

Middle Grade Nonfiction

Can You Hear the Trees Talking?: Discovering the Hidden Life of the Forest
Peter Wohlleben
Greystone Kids
Nominated by: Charlotte

A Young Reader’s Edition of the bestseller The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben guides nature enthusiasts- and even those who aren’t will soon be entranced to come along- into the fascinating world of trees. With thought-provoking questions like “Can Trees Talk?”, “Are Some Trees Brave?”, and “Do Trees Sweat in Summer?”, readers will be flipping pages to discover the answers. Nature photos, fun quizzes, and interactive activities provide a format that’s both engaging and entertaining at the same time.

Earl Dizon, The Chronicles Of A Children's Book Writer – Earl Dizon

Free Lunch
Rex Ogle
Norton Young Readers
Nominated by: Amanda Snow

In many ways, Rex Ogle is a typical twelve-year-old. He’s starting middle school and worries about making friends, where to sit in the lunchroom, and playing on the football team. In other ways, however, Rex’s life is very different than that of most of his peers. Rex’s mother abuses him both physically and verbally. There are regular incidences of domestic abuse between his mother and stepfather, Sam. Rex is a caregiver for his two-year-old brother, Ford, who he attempts to shield from his parents’ violence. Perhaps most difficult of all, the family is deep in the throes of poverty, being evicted from one awful apartment after another. Rex wears second hand clothes and eats free lunch every day.

In the author’s note at the end of book, Ogle says, “As an author, I tried not to write about my childhood for a very long time. In truth, I actively avoided it. It was simply too painful to revisit. But in recent years, I realized that little has changed in our national and global socioeconomic systems. In many ways, they have gotten worse. That revelation made me feel like I need to write this story..to offer a voice of camaraderie to those young readers who might desperately need it.

…If you are having a hard time, my advice is simple. Hang in there, give it time. And stay strong. No matter how bad your circumstances may seem, things can change. And until they do, no one can take away your most powerful gift-- your ability to hope for the better.”

So many young teens, sitting in our classrooms today need to hear this very important message.

Carol Wilcox, Carol W's Corner

It's Trevor Noah: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (Adapted for Young Readers)
Trevor Noah
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Jennifer Miller @RaiseThemRighteous

Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, shares his story of growing up in South Africa in It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime, adapted for young readers from his bestselling memoir Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. Born of a black mother and white father at the tail end of apartheid, his very existence—the evidence of the mixing of races—means he was “born a crime.” A story of racial prejudice, poverty, violence, and faith, this remarkably honest and vividly written story takes young readers into the South African social and political landscape in the years immediately following the dismantling of apartheid.

Carrie Butler Becker, Other Women's Stories

Killer Style: How Fashion Has Injured, Maimed, and Murdered Through History
Alison Matthews David
Owlkids Books
Nominated by: Rebecca Herzog

"No one is safe from these fatal crimes of fashion..." claims the authors of "Killer Style", a nonfiction chapter book for middle grade readers. Inside you will see fatal fashion tales categorized under "Horrified Heads", "Miserable Middles" and "Unlucky legs". Learn about how mercury hats in the 1700's proved fatal for workers who used mercury as a cheap alternative to demanding and expensive supplies of felt. Love the greens in your wardrobe? When "Paris green" pigment was invented, there was another rather deadly name to it: "poisonous green". Finally read about fatal footwear and how heels have often landed the wearer in the grave.
Marrying science, history and art, this title shows you how fashion creators as well as the wearers can be victims to innovations in style. Inside this book you will find colorful pictures, historical photographs and vintage art to create a fashion magazine like reading experience. An intriguing, interesting and scary look at the fashion world.

Reshama Deshmukh, Stacking Books

Moles (Superpower Field Guide)
Rachel Poliquin
HMH Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Heather L. Montgomery

In the latest title of this series, the author manages to make clever comparisons from page one- inviting readers to see a typical garden mole as potato sized-and-shaped wonder-critter. Each page turn reveals more jaw-dropping details, Poliquin backs up her raves about this squinty-eyed, super-powered wonder with astonishing facts.
Naming her model mole Rosalie, the author provides all the scientific content you could imagine (and more!) while layering in humor and stacking up page after page of impressive accomplishments and adaptations on the part of this little powerhouse.
The writing itself is a perfect blend of lighthearted explanations and informed admiration for moles. After reading this field guide, it's easy to describe Rosalie and her relatives as charming. Back matter includes suggested further reading (both fiction and nonfiction) and a helpful glossary, too.
The illustrator brings comparable hyperbole and retro style to his illustrations with limited color tones and unlimited fun while adhering closely to the scientific facts about amazing moles.

Sandy Brehl, http://unpackingpicturebookpower.blogspot.com

Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson
Katherine Johnson
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Reshama

Thanks to Hidden Figures we’ve heard a lot about Katherine Johnson, but this outstanding autobiography gives us her story in her own delightful voice. Interweaved with important historical events is the story of a girl who is exceptionally brilliant--and yet wonderfully pragmatic about her own talents--at a time when being black and being female presented significant barriers to education. Both she and her family sacrificed so much to gain access to the very best education possible. It’s a story of talent and persistence that leads Katherine to NASA and the Apollo 11 mission.

Sarah Prineas, Prairie Lights Kids

This Promise of Change: One Girl's Story in the Fight for School Equality
Jo Ann Allen Boyce
Bloomsbury Children's Books
Nominated by: Dr. Cheryl S. Vanatti

This book, The Promise of Change, is the most powerful book about the experience of school integration that I have ever read. The Promise of Change is a nonfiction historical account told by the author, Jo Ann Allen, about her experience when she was a fourteen year old high school freshman and was one of eleven other African American students who walked into an all-white Clinton High School. The year was 1956. This high school was one of the first schools in the southern states to comply with the decision of the US Supreme Court that “separate was not equal” and thus no school could remain segregated.

Jo Allen did not set out to be a hero. She wanted to do what was right. She wanted a high school education. And she wanted what high school students all want – friends, a chance to be part of a sports team, or part of choir, maybe try out to in the school play. But none of those “wants” were possible for any of these twelve black students. As a reader we walk with Jo Ann Allen as she walks “down the hill” from her home to school – sometimes with the protection of the National Guard, sometimes with the combined courage of a white reverend who was beaten almost to death for his “crossing the line.” As a reader we also walk with Jo Ann Allen as she sits alone every lunch hour, sits alone at the back of the classroom, walks the halls between classes hoping no one will spit at her, call her an ugly name, shove her against a locker, or worse.

Ask for this book at your library. Walk with Jo Ann Allen. See through her eyes, feel the fear, courage, and empathy in her heart. Listen as she tells her story.

Nancy Bo Flood, The Pirate Tree

Junior High Nonfiction

1919 The Year That Changed America
Martin W. Sandler
Bloomsbury USA
Nominated by: Jennifer Naughton

One hundred years ago, a momentous year full of extraordinary events would change America forever. Many issues at the forefront of American society following the end of World War I manifested themselves through several events: the Great Molasses Flood, the Red Summer Chicago race riot, the Red Scare, women’s suffrage, labor strikes across America, and Prohibition. More than simply learning about specific historical events, readers discover how the zeitgeist of the time period led to upheavals, tragedies, and positive changes. Full of pictures and timelines at the end of each chapter, this book makes history relevant and appealing.

Jamie Gregory, The Page Turner

Disaster Strikes!: The Most Dangerous Space Missions of All Time
Jeffrey Kluger
Nominated by: Cindy Mitchell

The Space Race of the 1960s led to many remarkable achievements. The competition between the Soviet Union and the United States created a lot of pressure on both sides to move forward quickly. In some cases this resulted in disaster. Twelve such disasters are recounted by the author in chronological order. Starting with the Liberty Bell 7 spacecraft that nearly sunk in the ocean in 1961 after returning from suborbital orbit, and concluding with the almost drowning of Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano in 2013, each chapter highlights a disaster that struck explaining what happened and why. A fascinating collection of experiences that highlight the risks involved in exploring space.

Heidi Grange, Geo Librarian

Mummies Exposed!: Creepy and True #1
Kerrie Logan Hollihan
Abrams Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Adrienne Gillespie

Mummies are not just found in ancient Egyptian pyramids. In Mummies Exposed Hollihan tells (and shows through fascinatingly grotesque photographs) about mummies that have been found all around the world. In fact, there have been mummies that have been discovered recently—from Peru to China to the bogs of Great Britain—and with every new mummy that is found science learns a little more about the people who lived thousands of years ago yet are still around today in all their mummified glory.

Joella Bagshaw, Cinjoella

Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets
Gayle E Pitman
Abrams Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Joanna Marple

The colors don’t lie — this book deliberately aims to be a kaleidoscope history of LGTBQ people centered around the Stonewall Riots, with each chapter featuring some object as a gem that flashes in the shifting vision. Pittman gives many different views of the events from various perspectives, some very focused but others beginning long before or continuing afterward so that the events of Stonewall are clearly placed in history. In addition, she shows how history itself is written by looking at many different sources, some contradictory, so that any story of the past will not be absolutely sharp but will reflect the nature of the evidence the historian uses to tell the tale. Young teens will enjoy the story of a flashpoint in history while also absorbing lessons in the nature of historical records themselves.

Beth Mitcham, Library Chicken

The First Dinosaur: How Science Solved the Greatest Mystery on Earth
Ian Lendler
Margaret K. McElderry
Nominated by: Charlotte

Today the entire world knows what a dinosaur is; however, once upon a time people had no idea that giant lizards walked the earth. In First Dinosaur Lendler leads readers through how scientists worked piece by piece (or fossil by fossil) to figure out just exactly what these giant lizards were, when they lived, and what they were like. He also shows how often a few wrong ideas could lead to a new thought through the scientific process that helped us learn more about what we now know are dinosaurs.

Joella Bagshaw, Cinjoella

The Poison Eaters: Fighting Danger and Fraud in our Food and Drugs
Gail Jarrow
Calkins Creek Books
Nominated by: Heidi G.

Before the FDA was created people didn’t know what was in their food. Anything from formaldehyde to borax could be used to help keep foods looking good before being canned, boxed, and sold to an unsuspecting public. Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley wanted people to know what they were eating—in fact he thought it the public’s right to have foods labeled so that the public would know what was “pure food” and what wasn’t. In this book Jarrow explains how Dr. Wiley and others worked—sometimes through questionable experiments such as when they fed poison to people—to help the public know what was happening to their food, drugs, or cosmetics so they could make informed decisions.

Joella Bagshaw, Cinjoella

Senior High Nonfiction

A Thousand Sisters: The Heroic Airwomen of the Soviet Union in World War II
Elizabeth Wein
Balzer + Bray
Nominated by: Kimberly F

World War II books are not in short supply and it takes a unique and special title to offer something new to the conversation. Elizabeth Wein’s A Thousand Sisters is one of these books, telling the tale of Joseph Stalin’s female pilots. The Soviet Union was the first country to allow females to serve a fighter pilots. These women were infamously referred to as the “night witches.” Through this gripping book, readers learn about Marina Raskova and her quest to become a female fighter pilot against what feels like insurmountable odds to her founding the infamous Night Witches and the multiple regiments of female aviators as well as what the war was like on the eastern front. Filled with back matter such as source notes, this book is an excellent entry into aviation, the Soviet Union’s role in World War II, and female/gender roles during this time period.

Stephanie Charlefour, Love.Life.Read

Dreamland (YA edition): The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic
Sam Quinones
Bloomsbury YA
Nominated by: Melissa Fox

In this young adult adaptation Quinones explains America’s opiate epidemic. From the heartland of America where pain pills like OxyContin were prescribed by doctors who barely knew their patients to Mexico where members of a community started selling black tar heroin in the United States as a way to pull their families out of poverty—Quinones explains it all and puts a face to one of the greatest epidemics the country has seen. The opiate epidemic has killed so many and affected the lives of millions more.

Joella, Cinjoella

One Person, No Vote (YA edition): How Not All Voters Are Treated Equally
Carol Anderson
Bloomsbury YA
Nominated by: Benedict

To young people, voting may seem like a straightforward process: register, show up, cast a vote. However, Carol Anderson’s research shows young adult readers the history of unconstitutional voter rights suppression in America, beginning with Reconstruction and concluding with the significance of the Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court case. She includes specific examples of several states purging voter rolls as well as how gerrymandering can disproportionately affect the disabled, poor, and minority groups. Her narrative writing style interweaving research with individual stories of voting rights injustice will convince young readers on the brink of voting themselves to sit up, take notice, and register.

Jamie Gregory, The Page Turner

Playlist: The Rebels and Revolutionaries of Sound
James Rhodes
Candlewick Studio
Nominated by: Katy Manck

This book is a love song to music that the author finds expressive, personal, and inspiring. He wants to share that love with the world. Rhodes, a professional musician, knows a lot about this material but he also remembers what it is like to be unfamiliar with it. He speaks directly to the reader, confronting their possible expectations about “classical” music and then pulls aside the curtain to show the tumultuous times and people who created his picks, how each piece affects him and how to approach the sound and the creation of the works. It’s absolutely worth listening along with the playlist he provides. Visually the book is stunning, echoing the emotions the music evokes. Even the kids who don’t get that the book looks like a record album will appreciate the way it brings the classic and the contemporary together.

Beth Mitcham, Library Chicken

Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of "The Children's Ship"
Deborah Heiligman
Henry Holt
Nominated by: Celebrate Science

On September 17, 1940, one hundred children slept in their berths on board the passenger ship, SS City of Benares. As part of the Children's Overseas Reception Board (CORB) program, these children were being sent from Great Britain to Canada to keep them safe from the ongoing bombing occurring as a result of the recently begun World War II. Unknown to those on the ship, a German U-boat patrolled nearby waiting to take out British ships. Despite the rough weather, the U-boat sent two torpedoes to strike the lead ship in the convoy, the SS City of Benares. While only one of the torpedoes struck the ship it was enough to sink the ship. Heiligman tells the story of this sinking through the accounts of survivors, rescuers, and families left behind. While unable to tell the stories of everyone on board, she includes the stories of some of the children, caretakers, crew members, and other passengers. This well-written, compelling account of a war-created tragedy reminds readers that soldiers aren't the only ones to suffer during war time.

Heidi Grange, Geo Librarian

Young Adult Fiction

Don't Date Rosa Santos
Nina Moreno
Nominated by: boricuareads

Three generations of Santos women come together in this light-hearted but meaningful novel about culture, family, grief, love, and finding out who you truly are. Rosa and her abuela are esteemed members of their small coastal Florida town where a curse has kept Rosa from finding love, and she is determined to find out why. The delightful depictions of Cuban culture are #ownvoices by a talented debut author, and it completely shows.

Kara Malinczak, Great Imaginations

Mindy McGinnis
Katherine Tegen Books
Nominated by: Wendy

Opioid abuse is a timely, troubling issue, one that has shattered long-held images of what it means to be a "junkie." HEROINE—a novel about an ordinary teen's prescriptive use of opioids that evolves into not just a pill addiction, but also a heroin dependency—is a raw, hard-hitting cautionary tale that shows the devastating effects drug abuse can have on individuals, families, and communities. With unflinching prose, it tells a disturbing story made even more powerful by its relevance and urgency.

Susan Jensen, Bloggin' 'bout Books

I'm Not Dying with You Tonight
Gilly Segal
Sourcebooks Fire
Nominated by: Haley Shaffer

When racism and cultures collide at a high school football game, two teenage girls, one black and one white, are thrown together. Facing roadblocks and riots, Lena and Campbell look beyond their biases to get home safely only to discover that ultimately, it's the community's perceptions and prejudices that will hinder their progress.What's special about this book is the two distinct alternate points of view. Each powerfully illustrates how our own personal experiences permeate every decision we make.

Haley Shaffer, Teachers Who Read

On The Come Up
Angie Thomas
Balzer + Bray
Nominated by: Beth Mitchell

Bri wants to be a rap artist, like her legendary late father. She is on the way to this “come up” when her high school’s security guards attack her without reason, setting off confrontations between those who support and understand Bri, and those who are against her for a variety of reasons. On the Come Up explores the connection between the hip-hop culture of the streets and clubs, and the industry surrounding rap. On the Come Up will satisfy readers interested in rap or the music business, but it will also appeal to those who like cheering for an underdog.

Gary Anderson, What's Not Wrong?

Patron Saints of Nothing
Randy Ribay
Nominated by: Melissa Fox

More than just a murder mystery, PATRON SAINTS OF NOTHING tells a poignant, powerful story about a Filipino-American teen who travels to the land of his birth to investigate the wrongful death of his cousin. With a vivid, unique setting, the novel explores not just an underrepresented country but also an issue (President Duterte's aggressive and often violent war on drugs) that has been underexplored in both the media and popular fiction. Ultimately hopeful, PATRON SAINTS OF NOTHING is an eye-opening, thought-provoking novel about truth, identity, and justice that's as timely as it is compelling.

Susan Jensen, Bloggin' 'bout Books

The Downstairs Girl
Stacey Lee
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Darshana Khiani

The Downstairs girl takes place in 1890s Atlanta, where Jo Kuan is one of the few Chinese-American people living in the city. By day Jo is a lady's maid, but after the sun sets she writes about feminism, race, and gender in a provocative newspaper column. Jo's voice is brilliant, chatty, and intelligent, pulling readers in as her story unfolds. The rest of the memorable cast of characters (including a horse and a dog) will do the rest.

Kara Malinczak, Great Imaginations

With the Fire on High
Elizabeth Acevedo
Nominated by: Robin

Emoni Santiago is a single teenage mother with a flair for cooking. Just when she's about to give up her dream of becoming a chef, a new culinary arts class offers a week-long trip to Spain. Elizabeth Acevedo mixes all the right ingredients--beautifully written prose, a passionate protagonist, and well-developed relationships--into a book that will leave you determined to live more passionately.

Haley Shaffer, Teachers Who Read

Young Adult Speculative Fiction

Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle)
Amie Kaufman
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Rebecca J. Allen

Six cadets are brought together by circumstance. A rescued girl joins their crew; she's powerful, mysterious, and over 200 years old. When the group uncovers a massive conspiracy, it takes all of their skills to survive. The chapters alternate between the seven crew members, each with distinct voices, including one who seems to be on the autism spectrum, and another who is both disabled and queer. The world is impressively fully built, including a unified religion and complex alien cultures.

Cassandra Gelvin, Don't Read This to My Kids

Echo North
Joanna Ruth Meyer
Page Street Kids
Publisher/ Author Submission

When Echo's father goes missing, she sets out to find him and runs into the wolf that scarred her as a child. The White Wolf agrees to save her father if she promises to live in an enchanted house with him for an entire year. Meyer's story is a captivating fairy tale retelling mash-up about love being the most potent magic. There's a strong sense of fairy-tale destiny in some of the events, and in many ways, it reads as if it were an ancient tale handed down instead of a new release. The darkly atmospheric tone contributes to this fantastical, unique take on the fairy tale genre.

Jennifer Naughton, Windy City Reader

Rosaria Munda
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Kimberly F

What happens after the revolution, and how do you build the society you've fought to create? In Munda's fiery debut, inspired by Plato's Republic and set in a fantasy world a few years after a people's revolution, two teenage dragonriders face these questions head-on as they compete to become First Rider. Munda has written a rousing story full of twists and turns that places her multi-layered characters in impossible situations where all choices seem like the wrong ones. The dragons and their relationships with their riders are fresh and exciting, adding new life to an old and beloved fantasy trope. Expertly balancing a thrilling plot with literary depth, Fireborne soars.

Kimberly Francisco, STACKED

Samira Ahmed
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Darshana Khiani

Set "fifteen minutes in the future," this speculative novel about the internment of Muslim Americans is all too realistic. In an authentic teenage voice, Layla Amin tells of how she and her parents are forcibly removed from their homes and imprisoned in the California desert. Teens will feel Layla's growing terror as her civil rights are violated and violence against the internees grows. But they'll also root for her as she and some new friends resist and make plans to right the wrong. In an era where many people feel helpless about the real world, Internment can inspire empathy and action among teens, who are poised to change the world.

Kimberly Francisco, STACKED

Sorcery of Thorns
Margaret Rogerson
Margaret K. McElderry
Nominated by: Kristen

Margaret Rogerson’s sophomore novel, Sorcery of Thorns, reads like a love letter to libraries, books, and readers. The orphaned protagonist, Elisabeth Scrivener, was raised in one of the Great Libraries to become a warden, a protector of the library’s grimoires. When Elisabeth is accused of a murder she didn’t commit, she has to leave her home in the Great Library and make an unlikely alliance with a sorcerer named Nathaniel. While she attempts to clear her name, she uncovers danger, conspiracies, and an evil she never expected.

Mixing high fantasy, romance, and gothic elements, Sorcery of Thorns is an engaging story that presents a fascinating world, a breathtaking plot, and deep themes on morality and family. Our panel also enjoyed the representation of bisexuality in a fantasy setting, the lore of the demons, and the quick pace.

Samantha Randolph, YA Books Central

The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air)
Holly Black
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

Cardan is now High King, but Jude is pulling the strings. In this dark and broody second installment of the Folk of the Air Trilogy, Black returns to the beautiful and harsh faerie realm, where Jude must fight off attempts to steal the crown while ruling from the shadows. This is no second book slump: Black builds upon the first book, further fleshing out the brutal world of Faerie and peopling her story with delightfully complicated characters both old and new. Secrets, tragedy, and betrayal await Jude on every page of this exciting story that will have teens clamoring for the finale.

Grace Barker, Gracegetsbooks

War Girls
Tochi Onyebuchi
Nominated by: Benedict

Set in a far-future Nigeria and based on the real Nigerian Civil War of the 1960s, War Girls alternates chapters between two sisters who believe the other to be dead. Separated by the war, the two girls - one a warrior who pilots giants mechs, the other a young technological whiz - slowly and inorexably move toward a reunion that will be like neither of them expects. Each sister has a distinct personality and unique voice, and the world is detailed and fully fleshed out. This book both requires and inspires deep thought.

Cassandra Gelvin, Don't Read This to My Kids